Mere Links 03.25.14
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

Western Ignorance of the ‘Conditions of Omar’
Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media

Syrian Christians are being forced to convert, subjugate themselves, or face death.

Shift in support for same-sex marriage greatest among black Protestants
Mark A. Kellner, Deseret News

The acceptance of same-sex marriage by black American Protestants has risen by about a third in the past year, data from the Pew Research Center revealed this week.

World Vision and Why We Grieve For the Children
Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition

World Vision has announced that its American branch will adjust its employee code of conduct to allow same-sex couples who are legally “married.”

Religious Exemptions Are Vital for Religious Liberty
Robert P. George and Hamza Yusuf, Wall Street Journal

The Hobby Lobby case is about far more than a federal rule mandating insurance coverage for contraception.



Please Pray for Today’s Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 9:18 AM

Do people who own businesses have a right to shape their businesses according to their consciences and religious beliefs?  This is the question that will be heard in oral arguments today at the Supreme Court in two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.  In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) when it threatened religious owners of for-profit corporations with multimillion dollar fines if they did not pay for insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that the business owners believe terminate human life.  (Incidentally, RFRA is the original, federal version of the Arizona law, amendments to which Governor Brewer recently vetoed.)  With ironic timing, Mr. Obama will travel to Rome with his 900-strong posse, three airplanes, and 45 cars to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday.  (I hope they eat some boiled whitefish and carrots together at the Casa Santa Marta.)  In a prelude to a potentially frosty meeting, the Vatican’s chief justice, Raymond Cardinal Burke, said in a recent magazine interview that Mr. Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.  Cardinal Burke said that:

The policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship; that is, he holds that one is  free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship, but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.

Well said, and quite on point, Cardinal Burke.  It seems that way to many of us here as well.  Please pray for today’s oral argument in the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Mandate cases.  The stakes are very high as these cases test whether the United States will remain a pluralistic society that supports a strong religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.  I have linked to an important 11 minute video from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (available here) that shows why the HHS Mandate cases protect all people with sincerely held religious beliefs.  Please pray for each of the nine Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate on these cases, and for Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States, who is arguing the cases for the owners and their companies.  Please also pray for the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Bookstores, and the Hahn family, who owns Conestoga Wood Specialties, who are challenging the HHS Mandate.  For as we have learned in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And oh, how dark and wicked these high places are.



Mere Links 03.24.14
Monday, March 24, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Gospel of Interracial Marriage
Trillia Newbell, Christianity Today

How unity in Christ should overcome our segregated pews and segregated dating lives.

Pope Francis: Without work, human dignity is “wounded”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

If it seems odd to root for reduced opportunity in favor of government subsidies, then this message today from Pope Francis will resonate.

Six parishioners shot dead while worshipping at Kenyan church
ABC

Two gunmen have stormed a church near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa and opened fire on worshippers, killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others, in what police are labelling a terrorist attack.

If the contraceptive mandate passes, it will ruin a core U.S. ideology
Rick Warren, Washington Post

Does our Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.



Icon Meditation of Christ
Sunday, March 23, 2014, 7:00 AM

A meditation on nine icons of Christ to mark the middle of Lent.

1. To Thee we sing, our God (0:00)
2. Lord, have mercy (2:38)
(more…)



The Rights of Aphrodite
Friday, March 21, 2014, 1:42 PM

ts MarApril2014 1 227x300 The Rights of AphroditeFrom the March/April 2014 issue of Touchstone.

The Rights of Aphrodite

W. E. Knickerbocker on C. S. Lewis & the New State Paganism

In the essay “We Have No ‘Right To Happiness,’” C. S. Lewis tells his readers of a conversation he had with a woman who was one of his neighbors. The subject of the discussion was two neighbor couples, Mr. and Mrs. A and Mr. and Mrs. B. Mr. A had divorced Mrs. A to marry Mrs. B, who had divorced Mr. B. Mrs. A’s looks were not what they once were, one cause of which was the number of children she had borne to Mr. A. Mr. B had been disabled in the war and was out of a job. The neighbor with whom Lewis was having the conversation justified these divorces and the remarriage by saying that Mr. A and Mrs. B “had a right to happiness.”

Lewis says the neighbor who justified this behavior was “rather leftist” in her politics and a teetotaler, who would certainly not approve of a ruthless businessman whose happiness consisted in making money or of an alcoholic who was happy when he was drunk. Rather, the happiness to which this neighbor said Mr. A and Mrs. B had a right was solely “sexual happiness.” The right to sexual happiness justified breaking vows solemnly made and legally validated.



Please Continue to Pray for the Ukrainian People
Friday, March 21, 2014, 11:17 AM

The First Lady, the First Children, and Mrs. Robinson, the First Grandmother, arrived yesterday in China for some “soft diplomacy.” Accompanied by an entourage of 70 persons, no reporters were allowed to join this troupe, and the trip was touted as a “weeklong feel-good tourist event.” (In other words a taxpayer-paid junket.) But this left Mr. Obama free to work on important issues facing our nation and world. Media reports have informed us that Mr. Obama and his staff have started planning a vacation for the Obamas on Martha’s Vineyard during the week of August 9th. Further, the Basketball-Fan-In-Chief also found time to opine the 2014 Men’s Final Four picks to ESPN. (His selections include the Louisville Cardinals, the Florida Gators, the Arizona Wildcats, and the Michigan State Spartans.) With the family away, he can now enjoy the remaining basketball games. He also found time to appear recently on television, including the Ellen DeGeneres television program (where she observed that “everyone’s very grateful” for Obamacare), and the hard-hitting and widely-viewed Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (who?). The situation in Ukraine, and the relationship among Russia and the former Soviet states grows more dangerous and contentious each day, as Russian forces seized a Ukrainian naval base, as well as Ukrainian naval ships.  But, never fear, things are all well in hand at the White House. Mr. Obama has now imposed new and even greater sanctions on Russia, including an Executive Order compelling Netflix to cancel Mr. Putin’s subscription.

Many are praying that God will use the recent events in Ukraine to bring others to Himself.  I received an email from “Ilya,” a lawyer and brother in Christ in Ukraine.  I wish to quote at length from his email as it was an encouragement to us, and also a plea to pray for the suffering people of Ukraine:

The events of the last month in Ukraine have become a vivid demonstration of the power of prayer of a global Christian community.  Numerous statements, trips, letters of support and phone calls of Christian Alliances, organizations, and leadership of many of the democratic countries have demonstrated that Ukrainian people are not alone in this strife for a better life, true democracy and rule of law.

These challenges showed the unity of Ukrainian people and the activeness of the church which responded to crisis though words and deeds. The chapels opened their doors for the wounded and injured, the sanctuaries served as shelters and safe houses, the priests stood like a live shield between angry demonstrators and riot police. Ordinary people left their jobs and volunteered in the churches, hospitals, field kitchens, while others provided free overnight lodging for those in need. The Revolution united all: East and West, young and old, rich and poor.

God has changed the situation dramatically. The new majority in the Parliament have committed to work tirelessly to implement the reforms and pass the laws that would improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainians and take the country out of poverty and corruption. Although the President fled to Russia, the Parliament voted for a Baptist minister, Dr. Turchynov, to serve as an acting President of Ukraine until the presidential elections take place on May 25. Under his leadership the country has started to make steps towards closer ties with European Union and United States.

Among the first steps to bring back the trust of the people was the order to tear down the high solid fence which separated the people and the Parliament building.  People welcomed this decision and applauded the fall of the Ukrainian “iron curtain,” which symbolized the new era of transparency and accountability of the new government. When it was obvious that people have won the battle for Kiev, the battle for Crimea has just started. While Ukrainians were celebrating the victory in Kiev, the armed groups of people at Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea were stirring up the population, the majority of which are ethnic Russian, to turn the region back to Moscow.  . . . People in Crimea are scared to death of such help and those who can, leave the peninsula in fear of war.

The Ukrainian government has been very reserved to such invasion and uses the language of diplomacy rather than language of war. Meanwhile Russia fueled the Referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea while the world biggest democracies say they will not recognize the poll that is used to legitimize Russian occupation. Ukraine had asked the international     community to send observers to Crimea, but Russian military do not let them into Crimea. . . .  [Ukraine and Russia] are two friendly nations which share a lot of cultural, geographical and linguistic similarities that make us close to each other.  Evil powers and dishonest leaders through provocations, lies and greed set us against each other.  Nobody wants a war and one     way to stop is to repent before God and each other and love your neighbor as yourself.  I ask you kindly to pray for God’s intervention in this situation.  Only He is mighty and capable to stop the aggression and violence, and grant Ukraine unity and peace. —Ilya

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and while our leaders fiddle while Ukraine burns, let us never forget that it is only a miracle from God that can save that part of the world from the evil brutality of aggression and repression.



Mere Links 03.22.14
Friday, March 21, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Most Influential Reformer You’ve Never Heard of
Karen Swallow Prior, Christianity Today

Hannah More shows us what happens when Christians focus on world-changing instead of in-fighting.

The Challenge of Pluralism
Ross Douthat, New York Times

If we take pluralism seriously, the whole point of the concept is to enable groups to “throw up a shield” against the pressure of consensus, and develop and promote alternatives that are rejected the powerful, or by society as a whole.

Who Is Pope Francis to Judge Not?
Leroy Huizenga, Catholic World Report

The modern world cannot comprehend mercy because it cannot comprehend sin.

The Distrustful Generation
Greg Forster, The Gospel Coalition

The most dire social problem is that Millennials don’t trust their neighbors. The deepest question our culture will be facing in the coming generation is not what to do about jobs or single parenthood, but whether we are still capable of loving our neighbors.



“I Now Pronounce You Human and Human”
Thursday, March 20, 2014, 2:57 PM

Louis Markos has posted his latest on the inclusive language and gender-neutral madness:

How “Gender Neutral” Bible Translations Prepared the Way for Christian Acceptance of Gay Marriage. An excerpt:

I would propose a third cause for why so many Bible-believing Christians are embracing, or at least not openly opposing, the eventual legalization of marriage between people of the same sex. They are doing so because the ground has been carefully laid and watered by a subtle but pervasive change in our cultural perceptions of men and women. Rather than identify, nurture, and celebrate masculinity and femininity as distinct but complementary God-given realities, our culture has been coaxed—by forces within the public school system, the media, the academy, and (alas) the seminary—to view boys and girls, men and women, husbands and wives as ultimately interchangeable.

The message, though not always stated so baldly, has been simply this: God may have provided us with our respective genitalia, but it is by the creative power of socialization that we are masculine or feminine. And because it was society, not God, who made us male and female, that same society can redefine at will the contours of our sexuality.



St. Augustine’s College Weston Lecture
Thursday, March 20, 2014, 1:57 PM

The Weston Lecture at St. Augustine’s College, Ottawa, Canada, in will be given on April 4. (If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d be there.) Theme:

“The Incarnation, Human Dignity, and Freedom: The Christian in the Public Square” by Canada’s Ambassador of Religious Freedom and Dean of Augustine College, Dr. Andrew Bennett.

PDF Flyer is available here.



Mere Links 03.20.14
Thursday, March 20, 2014, 10:00 AM

We Are Not Just Our DNA: The Ethical Dangers of Three-Parent Embryos
Maureen L. Condic, Public Discourse

The creation of three-parent embryos is not an innocuous medical treatment—it is a macabre form of eugenic human cloning.

Osteenification and What it Portends
Hank Hanegraaff, Patheos

Why Osteenification? Because Joel Osteen is the prime provocateur of a seductive brand of American Christianity that reduces God to a means to our ends. A message that beckons multitudes to the table of the Master, not for the love of the Master but for what is on the table.

9 Things You Should Know About Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

Here are nine things you should know about the notorious religious leader and his organization.

Megachurch Going
Jeremy Lott, The American Spectator

Many churches took to calling themselves “nondenominational” in the hope of reaching a larger potential group of people. This used to prompt the learned joke, “What kind of nondenominational church are you?” But it seemed to me that the religious landscape has shifted enough in America that many churchgoers may not even know they’re Protestants anymore. And: The rise of growth-focused megachurches may be fueling this trend.


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